Picture of first sit-in August 13, 1960 and closed lunch counter. “It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!” More »

Civil Rights Marker in downtown Jacksonville-Hemming Park/Plaza. More »

With Stetson Kennedy and Wayne Greenhaw. More »

Members of the 1960 Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP TODAY---with Marjorie Meeks Brown, Dr. Arnett E. Girardeau, Iona Godfrey King, Rometa Graham Porter, Isaac Carnes, Alton Yates. More »

With NAACP National Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins in 1960 when he spoke in Jacksonville at one of the NAACP Mass Meetings. More »

Receiving Bronze Medal as a Florida Book Awards Winner--with Wayne Wiegand. More »

With Dr. Michael Eric Dyson-Speaker at the 2009 Jacksonville Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. More »

Speaker-City of Jacksonville Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfast More »

With Dr. Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, and Founding and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice...and the Speaker at the 2008 Jacksonville Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. Dr. Ogletree taught both Michelle Obama and President Obama at Harvard Law School. More »

Ruby Hurley and Ella Baker, two of 12 Civil Rights Icons immortalized in the 2009 USPS Stamp Issue-Civil Rights Pioneers. More »

Mrs. Ruby Hurley, Southeastern Regional Director NAACP and our 1960 NAACP Youth Council Surrogate Mother. More »

With Civil Rights Icon and Congressman John Lewis More »

50th Anniversary Commemoration of the 1960 Sit-ins and Ax Handle Saturday with members of the 1960 Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP. From left...Issac Carnes, Marjorie Meeks Brown, Mary Chisholm Underwood, Iona Godfrey King, and Ann Albertie Hurst (yep my wife). In the rear of the Pulpit area at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church...from left...Ms. Adora Nweze, President of the Florida State Conference of Branches NAACP; Rev. Dr. Randolph Bracy; Isaiah Rumlin, President of the Jacksonville Branch; and Bethel Senior Co-Pastor, Bishop Rudolph McKissick Sr. More »

Jacksonville Branch NAACP 2012 Freedom Fund Dinner More »

With Dr. Jelani Cobb at the 98th ASALH Annual Convention in Jacksonville October 2-6, 2013. More »

Dr. Johnnetta Cole, Speaker at the 2013 ASALH National Convention Banquet in Jacksonville, Florida. More »

Dr. Robert Hayling, Me, and Charlie Cobb at the 2014 Florida Heritage Book Festival for our presentation on the Civil Rights/Freedom Summer Movement. More »


Justice is not Blind, Justice is a Racist.

Matt Wuerker

The Struggle Continues.  RLHSR.

Marissa Alexander…Justice Deferred.

Difficult to objectively assess the MARISSA ALEXANDER plea deal because it eliminates her exposure to serve 60 years. She pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on Counts 1 and 3 of the three Counts which satisfied the conditions of the plea deal. There is still a count 2 which will require her to go before the judge. He could also say everything is satisfied or not. He could even sentence her to more time. All of this gives them the ability to SAVE FACE, and they are doing it on the back of a Black Female. After serving 65 more days in jail in addition to the 1030 days she has already served, Marissa will be released from jail on January 27. She will then serve an additional 2 years of leg bracelet monitoring including house arrest. Further details will come out today…..BUT…

This was a political decision. It does take Marissa from under the gun of a 60 year sentence but it also takes Jacksonville's Political and Criminal IN-Justice Leadership off the hot seat. This is an international case and they just wanted IT to go away. Considering the circumstances, it takes a lot of pressure off of Marissa but it is interesting about the additional 2 years. I suspect these 2 years HAMSTRINGS her from publicly talking about her case. TV and Talk Shows etc. Keep her quiet. Jacksonville does not want Marissa's case to become more of a cause celebre'. Jacksonville's Racial Personality is still front and center and it is still racist. I am glad this part of Marissa's nightmare is over BUT THIS IS STILL A TRAVESTY and Justice is still a Racist.

The Struggle Continues. RLHSR.

Michael Brown…A Story of Racism, Injustice, and Death—-Again.


This is another unfortunate teachable moment about Racism and Injustice in these As Yet United States of America. When a Black man is killed by a white person…Police or otherwise…the killer is never on trial. The Black male victim is on trial for what he did or did not do and he obviously cannot defend himself or say his killer is also a Liar. Black males are always thought to be naturally violent so they are always the aggressors. These are the circumstances since slavery. Black males are always at fault irrespective of the circumstances. In addition to Michael Brown, we have seen 20 to 30 Black males + killed over the last two years …the list is tragically long…including some who supposedly "committed suicide in the back seat of a police car"; and it was "their fault" or "it was something they did". So this teachable moment is to help young Black people understand racism in this veritable "Sea" of Integration.

Your conversation with a young Black person and especially with Black Millennials has to deal with stark reality. Racism is no joke. When Dr. Maya Angelou said "These As Yet United States of America", she spoke truth. When James Baldwin said "It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate”, he spoke truth. As a Black Parent, Grand Parent, Uncle, Aunt, whatever …to quote from the song in "Ragtime"…MAKE THEM HEAR YOU. That is the only way they will understand what they are up against. Graduation speakers tell one of the biggest lies at high school and college commencements. They tell students work hard, do your assignments, graduate …and tell the world you are ready, and everything will be all right. But to Blacks, they never mention the term Racism. You tell your young people about Racism, not as an excuse…But so they will know what to expect. You cannot afford not to.

The Struggle Continues.  RLHSR.

Memo to Ferguson Missouri White Business Community, White Elected Officials, and Their White Fellow Travelers…


Don't point fingers because of the unrest. Don't become concerned NOW when your Christmas Profits are in danger. You are bracing for the unknown because of the core racist attitudes of You, Your White Elected Officials and Your White Police. You did not see this coming because you did not want to see this coming. You were lulled into thinking "The Coloreds" in Ferguson and in other portions of St. Louis County were "satisfied" with your racism and White Privilege. So what is a little more intensified Police Brutality? We will just look the other way like we have always done.

Now you are saying things like "things would have been fine if it were not for the outside agitators". Talk about a page from the 50's and the 60's. You do not need "outside agitators" when people are finally fed-up with the American Institution of Racism. That is why there is a Struggle and why the Struggle Continues. You Ferguson Missouri…no matter what happens…no matter the violence-real and imagined…no matter the fall-out …no matter the excuses given … You helped America make this and You and America own this. You just have to deal with another chapter of Racism-American Style. And it ain't pretty.

The Struggle Continues. RLHSR.

When Is Enough Enough?


Adrian Peterson

I love how all the Black and White Sports Commentators, and everyone else with lips, are ripping Adrian Peterson to shreds and imposing their own opinions about how "inhumane" he was as a father and how society needs to really start addressing the issues of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse. Some simply responded to Social Media. No one condones child abuse or spousal abuse. Adrian Peterson spanked his child with a switch…not a tree limb as some media described.. and he has apologized many times over. When is enough enough. Everyone has waded in with their expert and psychological opinions. Usually we say, let the legal system take its course, and it did.

 Commissioner Roger Goodell seems to be punishing the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson for the sins of Ray Rice.

But for many, including the NFSL, the National Football Slave League, that was not good enough. I also reference Massa Roger Goddell utterly patronizing statement when he said, Peterson has not shown enough remorse; yet Goddell and Peterson HAVE NOT had a sit down conversation about anything. How does he know there is no remorse? How many times does Peterson have to apologize? So once again, we have a Black Athlete as the Poster Example of what is wrong with society's ills. White Corporate American needed a scapegoat and the NFSL obliged them.

Now, I wonder when will EVERYONE start addressing Society's Racism with the same intensity or do we continue to let that 800-lb Gorilla simply continue to sit in the middle of the room?

The Struggle Continues.  RLHSR.

Racists are Ignorant AND Stupid and not necessarily in that order.



Examples once again of White Supremacy and White Privilege produced by that American Institution of Racism. This post is initially directed at Sorors of Delta Sigma Theta, but if you are a member of a Black Sorority or Fraternity…if you are not a "Greek" and are a person whose hue of skin is the same as mine…if you are White and are fair-minded…And if you are White and NOT fair-minded, this post is intended for you.

On the November 11 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Resident Racist host (and there are many on FOX) Lou Dobbs claimed United States Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch's membership in DELTA SIGMA THETA, one of the country's leading Black sororities was "controversial". This Racist FOX Noise Imp said this (among other things) because Eric Holder's wife Sharon Malone, a classmate of Lynch's at Harvard, and the Sister of Vivian Malone (who integrated the University of Alabama notwithstanding racist Governor George Wallace so-called "standing in the door") also pledged Delta Sigma Theta. What an insult. In fact, they founded the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at Harvard.

This is a part of the systemic attempt on the part of rather pathetic Racist Whites who have to discover a way to look down on Blacks who are obviously brighter than them. Racists have a need to try and show they are intellectually superior to Black females such as Loretta Lynch and Sharon Malone. I can imagine them collectively saying, "How dare these Negresses pretend they belong?" Racist White Males are notorious for this make believe to fortify their male egos. When they realize they are not, their next step is to try and dismantle those Monuments and those Organizations of Pride in the Black Community which are testimonies to Black Legacy and real accomplishments. Mrs. Lynch who was appointed by President Obama in 2010 and also serve in the same post from 1999 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton was confirmed twice by the United States Senate.

This made-up furor shows the width and breadth of the American Institution of Racism. So when we talk with our young people, make sure we explain to them what racism is all about. You have examples all around you.

The Struggle Continues. RLHSR.

Political Life Goes On!

A few things to take away from election both good and bad…
First a few of the bad…
*Prepare yourself for the gloating and Republicant Shills in the media describing the election as a mandate for Republicants and a repudiation of the policies of President Obama.
*Many Democrats ran trying not to lose instead of running to win and did not run on issues like Obamacare and the minimum wage which identify who they are and Democrats support for the middle class.
*Wimpy Democrats now understand running with the President and his accomplishments would have served them better than running from the President.
*Racists in the US House of Representatives will surely vote to impeach President Obama as soon as they can after they are sworn in January 2015. Many even ran on impeaching President Obama. Impeachment will be fueled by his veto pen which he will use with the flood of BS legislation they will now pass. Impeachment is a two-step procedure. The House of Representatives must first pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment, which constitute the formal allegation or allegations. They really do not need a GOOD reason. So it will happen sooner rather than later. In the case of the impeachment of a president, the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the proceedings. To convict the accused, a two-thirds majority of the senators present is required. Conviction removes the defendant from office. But understand, impeaching the President because of ideology instead misfeasance, malfeasance or nonfeaseance will be a Public Relations disaster with consequences to cost the Republicants the white House in 2016.
*The President will lose key staffers who have had enough of Republicant obstructionism.
*Liberal and or progressive federal judicial appointments are probably out and some compromises are in when judicial appointments are made.
And now some of the good—sort of—
*Every two-term president in the last 30 years had to face the opposite party controlling both houses of the legislature so this is nothing new.
*President Obama DOES have the veto pen and expect him to use it. It requires 2/3 to override Republicants which Republicants will not have.
*Even with the Republicant win, this was not a sweep nor was it a mandate. Many states where the Senate was lost were states President Obama DID NOT carry in 2012.
*The new governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf ran as a progressive and ran on issues Democrats should have understood. Many Democrats will learn not to run from your presidential standard bearer and run on issues which have been proven true to your party’s values and ideals.
*Democrats grabbed a key Senate victory in Michigan with U.S. Rep. Gary Peters who also ran as a progressive.
*Even though many Republicants in Congress are stupid and racist and sexist and homophobic etc. any talk about REALLY repealing Obamacare will be bluster and sabre rattling. They will make a lot of noise and there will be agreement to a tweak or two but that is it. They will have to face their constituents and explain taking their health care.
*Democrats retained control of the Kentucky State House in Mitch McConnell’s front yard.
*Oregon Democrats, especially in the State Senate, virtually ran the table Tuesday night, clearing the way for an ambitious agenda heavy on environmental and income-equality issues in the 2015 legislative session.
*With Republicants spending more than a Billion dollars across the country, many Republicants won with a few thousand votes. That qualifies as “buying” an election. That will change. By the way $55 million were spent in attack ads alone against McConnell’s opponent, Alison Grimes.
*Finally…Look for a real knock-down-drag-out if the President has to make a Supreme Court appointment.

Once again, The Struggle Continues! RLHSR.

And You Sir Are A Racist.

This is a question and a comment from one of my White Facebook Friends…

—FBF Name— Mr. Hurst do you see everything thought (sic) black and white lenses?
***Rodney Lawrence Hurst Sr— Expand your question—FBF Name—. I think I know what you are saying. I would like to be sure before I respond.
—FBF Name—You sound like a bitter black man with and (sic) inferiority complex and fixated on black and white verses (sic) right and wrong.

My response…You are apparently another White expert on being me. I am glad you can ascertain I have an inferiority complex by my posts on Facebook. In this country many times Black and White is the instance of right and wrong. You are wrong, mistaken, wide of the mark and erroneous again. You are probably the typical White male used to talking with handerchief head niggers who cower when you ask them something or when you take a position. You have probably been that way all of your life, yet there are things your White Privilege will not let you see, and certainly will not let you acknowledge. First of all, I am not the one. Yet I have seen cowardly Whites like you all of my life.

I can tell you this…I KNOW you think you have Superiority Complex only because you are White and that is what you have been led to believe all of your life. You have been taught to dislike me based on the color of my skin no matter your station in life. That is White privilege coupled with your so-called superiority complex, and most Whites like you wear it well. But if you are so much superior to me, why did you have to past Jim Crow Laws and Segregate the races and create the American Institution of Racism? Does that show how superior you are? They are actions of a coward being shielded by a bullying crowd.You sir are a racist and a coward, and you don't even know it nor do you understand you do not even know. And for that I feel a little sorry for you…not much but some. And I got all of this from your comments.

Let me take YOU to school.
Racism is not simply personal prejudice/bigotry manifesting itself in the form of being unkind to someone on the basis of their skin color or calling them a derogatory name or even making one of your "cute" White Privilege comments. Racism is a system of oppression, one that creates a society of first- and second-class citizens by denying rights and access to resources to non-white people. Racism is a system of power created by and maintained through public policy. Racist rhetoric or action is anything that reinforces/upholds that system. So until the day comes when you no longer develop a deep seated hatred about me purely based on the color of my skin, don't tell me about being bitter. You assume many of us are bitter which is probably why YOUR police choose to shoot us rather than act as the law enforcement professionals they are hired to be. That is yet another instance of a racist with a badge asserting his White Privilege and life and death control over Blacks because he can. There is no more “race relations” or “conversations about race” or “racial issues/discrimination.” There is racism. We have to name it before we face it. And you my dear sir are a racist. You sound like one —ergo—you are. On yeah it is about Black and White. Many issues in America are about Black and White. I know them well.

The Struggle Continues. RLHSR.

From juba to jitterbug to jookin: Black dance in America

Jitterbugs (V), by William H. Johnson

Jitterbugs (V) by William H. Johnson

This Excellent piece is by one of my favorite writers, Denise Oliver Velez for the Daily Kos web site Sunday Octoer 5, 2014.  I do not need to add a thing.

"Black Americans have made enormous contributions to what is known worldwide as "American culture"—in the arts, music, literature, sciences, cuisine, and style. One of those social arts is black dance:  

Africans brought their dances to North and South America, and the Caribbean Islands as slave labor starting in the 1500s. The dance styles of hundreds of African ethnic groups merged with European dances, forming the extension of the African aesthetic in the Americas. Dance has always been an integral part of daily life in Africa. In the Americas, it helped enslaved Africans connect with their homeland keeping their cultural traditions alive.

As before enslavement, Africans danced for special occasions, such as a birth or a marriage, or as a part of their daily activities and dance affirmed life and the outlook of a better future. African-Americans sang and danced while working as slaves, and as they converted to the religions of the Americas, they incorporated these traditions into these religions. Blacks who worked in the colonies of Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, and South America were given more freedom to dance than enslaved Blacks in North America. Many North American slave owners barred Africans from most forms of dancing. Africans found ways of getting around these prohibitions. For example, since lifting the feet was considered dancing, many dances included foot shuffling and hip and torso movement. Dances dominant through the 18th century included the ring shout or ring dance, the calenda, the chica, and the juba.

The dances of the plantation moved onto the stage through Minstrel shows, which introduced black dance to large audiences during the 1800s. As popular entertainment, both Blacks and whites performed them. Initially, Blacks appeared as caricatures that were often ridiculed, but they drew from their cultural traditions even as they made fun of themselves. In 1891, The Creole Show, a revue staged on Broadway introduced The Cakewalk, the first dance created by Blacks to become popular with the white population. Other black-influenced dance trends that followed were the Charleston, the Lindy Hop, the Jitterbug, and the Twist. The 1920s and 1930s were an especially fruitful time for black dance in the United States. During the Harlem Renaissance, similar innovations in theater, music, literature, and other arts accompanied African-American developments in dance. Black musical theater, derived from minstrel shows, continued to popularize and legitimize black dance traditions and black performers, as it had in the 19th century.

Black dance is as American as apple pie, and has become a global export in conjunction with black music.

Woodcut of Juba from The Illustrated London News, August 5, 1848

Master Juba

One of the earliest black dances in the new world was the juba. Though the name has not been traced exactly, Mo'juba in Yoruba is a series of prayers, and means "I give reverence to." The word mojo is also considered by some etymologists to be derived from this phrase. In West African traditions, prayer and dance were linked.  

The Juba dance:

The Juba dance was originally from West Africa. It became an African-American plantation dance that was performed by slaves during their gatherings when no rhythm instruments were allowed due to fear of secret codes hidden in the drumming. The sounds were also used just as Yoruba and Haitian talking drums were used to communicate. The dance was performed in Dutch Guiana, the Caribbean, and the southern United States.

Later in the mid-19th century, music and lyrics were added, and there were public performances of the dance. Its popularization may have indirectly influenced the development of modern Tap dance. The most famous Juba dancer was William Henry Lane, or Master Juba, one of the first black performers in the United States. It was often danced in minstrel shows, and is mentioned in songs such as "Christy's New Song" and "Juba", the latter by Nathaniel Dett.

The McIntosh County Shouters have preserved and passed down the traditional Gullah-Geechie Ring Shout dance:

The ring shout developed out of the collision of West African spiritual practice with the Protestantism of the British colonies, essentially as a cultural response of slaves to the dry, movement-less worship practices of the slave owners. But the songs of the ring shout are in a style distinct from the more familiar American “spirituals.” Historians and musicologists presumed that the ring shout had died out completely until it was “rediscovered” in 1980 as being alive and well in McIntosh County.

Here is a short clip from a Library of Congress concert:

Efforts to repress slaves from dancing and drumming in America were harsh from the beginning:

When first brought to North America during the 1600s and 1700s, slaves from the West coast of Africa used drums to communicate with each other in much the same way as they did at home, sending coded rhythmic messages over long distances, which the Europeans could not understand.  In this way slaves held in different encampments could stay in contact, and rebellion could be planned.  But after some time the masters realized that the drums could talk:  

"…it is absolutely necessary to the safety of this Province, that all due care be taken to restrain Negroes from using or keeping of drums, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes."  - Slave Code of South Carolina, Article 36 (1740)

Starting on the plantations of the Carolinas and Georgia, this ban soon spread nearly everywhere.  Without drums, slaves used whatever was around to make beats: spoons, washboards, furniture, and their own bodies with hand-clapping, drumming on various surfaces of the body (Patting Juba), and foot-stomping and shuffling (Ring Shout).  "It always rouses my imagination," wrote Lydia Parrish of the Georgia Sea Islands in 1942, "to see the way in which the McIntosh County 'shouters' tap their heels on the resonant floor to imitate the beat of the drum their forebears were not allowed to have." These earlier practices are also the origin of modern forms such as tap dancing.

Whites, in spite of the bans, quickly appropriated black dance and music—getting rich in the process—while at the same time denigrating the source. Racist stereotypes were the norm. Consider the minstrel show:

"Oliver Scott's Refined Negro Minstrels a happy lot of funny coons in myriad acts entrancing, new jokes and gags by black buffoons, the best of songs and dancing."

Racist Minstrel Show poster

Minstrel shows developed in the 1840s and continued to gain in popularity throughout the nineteenth century. These stage shows often featured white men, who blackened their faces with burnt cork and other compounds, lampooning African Americans. The shows were popular with both white and African American audiences. Despite the stereotypical nature of these shows, in many cases it was the first opportunity for African Americans to perform professionally. The African Americans who were a part of such shows often also appeared in blackface, to ensure that all actors were “black” enough…

Minstrel shows, through plays, jokes, and musical numbers including songs and dances, relied on the exploitation of African American stereotypes and presented racist images of black people as unintelligent, as well as displaying a sentimental view of the world of plantation slavery. This poster for Oliver Scott's Refined Negro Minstrels depicts many of the stereotypes that were standards for the minstrel shows, including Toms, Mammies, Coons, and Pickaninnies, all of which portrayed African Americans as comic sources of amusement. For generations these remained the standard stereotypes of African Americans in film, radio, and television.

While minstrel shows, and then vaudeville, were entertainment for the masses, the newly developing "modern dance" art form, sparked by white dancer Ruth St. Denis, was being adopted and changed by black dancers and choreographers. First and foremost was Edna Guy, who launched Katherine Dunham. During the same period, Asadata Dafora arrived in the U.S. from Sierra Leone, and black American modern dance would have a fresh injection of African movement. At the link, you can see one of the most famous dances he choreographed, the Ostrich.

One the best known contemporary modern dance pieces is Alvin Ailey's Revelations ("Revelations tells the story of African-American faith and tenacity from slavery to freedom through a suite of dances set to spirituals and blues music.").

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performs legendary Alvin Ailey's Revelations in Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performs Revelations

Black dance as a performing art on dance-stage venues took many decades to garner national and international acceptance. The most in-depth television documentary to date on black modern dance was the series produced by PBS, Free To Dance:

"Without the African contribution, we would not have had American dance as we know it," says author Katrina Hazzard Donald.

In three one-hour programs, FREE TO DANCE chronicles the crucial role that African-American dancers and choreographers have played in the development of modern dance as an American art form. Through first-person accounts by dancers and witnesses, the series documents how African-derived movement and other forms of dance were fused to make modern dance so distinctively American. Landmark dance masterpieces by African-American choreographers were filmed expressly for the series and woven throughout the historical narrative. They include the work of Katherine Dunham ("Barrelhouse Blues"), Pearl Primus ("Strange Fruit"), Donald McKayle ("Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder"), Talley Beatty ("Mourner's Bench"), Bill T. Jones ("D-Man in the Water"), Alvin Ailey ("Revelations"), and many others.

A description of each episode is available on PBS' website. The entire series has been posted to YouTube.

Most audiences, black and white, were not attending art dance performances. On the popular stage, and in film, out of juba came tap.

1900-1920: The Birth of Tap:

The term "tap" came into popular use as late as 1902. In the 1800s, the dance had been referred to as "buck-and-wing," "buck dancing," or "flat-footed dancing." Metal taps attached to shoe bottoms weren't commonly used until after 1910. Before then, most shoes were made of leather uppers and wooden soles, while others had hobnails or pennies pounded into the toe and heel.

With the rise of vaudeville, traveling black road shows and Broadway revues, more and more opportunities for tap dancers opened up. Still, racism was prevalent, and black and white performers usually danced on different theatrical circuits and for segregated audiences.

The most famous black tap dancer was Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, whose career spanned decades. Some of the other supreme tappers can be seen in this tribute at the Kennedy Center to Sammy Davis Jr:

Tap dancers performing in tribute to Sammy are 1 & 2) The Nicholas Brothers (Harold & Fayard), 3) Chuck Green, 4) Jimmy Slyde, and 5) 'Sandman' Sims.

Tap evolved out of cross-cultural contact between African Americans and Irish indentured immigrants, who had their own dance form—step dancing and clog. One of my favorite dance performances is this contemporary piece in River Dance:

While black dance may now be accepted worldwide as an art form or as stage entertainment, it is still—first and foremost—a social formation. My parents danced the lindy hop and went out jitterbugging in segregated ballrooms. My dad spent time on the West Coast and wore a zoot suit, as did young Mexican-Americans he met there, who were immortalized in Luis Valdez' Broadway play, Zoot Suit, starring Edward James Olmos detailing the lives of the "pachucos" and the time of the Zoot Suit Riots.

Jitterbugging in Negro juke joint, Saturday evening, outside Clarksdale, Mississippi, Marion Post Wolcott photographer Library of Congress U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs

Jitterbugging in Negro juke joint,
Saturday evening, outside Clarksdale, Mississippi,

Book Cover: Jookin' The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture, by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon

Jookin':The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon:

Katrina Hazzard-Gordon offers the first analysis of the development of the jook—an underground cultural institution created by the black working class—together with other dance arenas in African-American culture. Beginning with the effects of African slaves’ middle passage experience on their traditional dances, she traces the unique and virtually autonomous dance culture that developed in the rural South. Like the blues, these secular dance forms and institutions were brought north and urbanized by migrating blacks. In northern cities, some aspects of black dance became integrated into white culture and commercialized. Focusing on ten African-American dance arenas from the period of enslavement to the mid-twentieth century, this book explores the jooks, honky-tonks, rent parties, and after-hours joints as well as the licensed membership clubs, dance halls, cabarets, and the dances of the black elite.

Jook houses emerged during the Reconstruction era and can be viewed as a cultural response to freedom. In the jook, Hazzard-Gordon explains, an immeasurable amount of core black culture including food, language, community fellowship, mate selection, music, and dance found a sanctuary of expression when no other secular institution flourished among the folk. The jook and its various derivative forms have provided both entertainment and an economic alternative (such as illegal lotteries and numbers) to people excluded from the dominant economy. Dances like the Charleston, shimmy, snake hips, funky butt, twist, and slow drag originated in the jooks; some can be traced back to Africa.

Today jookin, Memphis Jookin, or Gangsta' Walking is associated with the meteoric rise to fame of Lil Buck Clayton. His improv dance performance with Yo Yo Ma has well over 2 million views on YouTube:

The New York Times featured him in A Man in Constant Motion: Lil Buck Expands Jookin’s World:

The audience, well-heeled local arts patrons, had probably come for Yo-Yo Ma, also on the evening’s program, not the lithe young man with the mien and facial hair of a teenager, in high-tops and baseball cap. They gasped when Lil Buck accomplished a signature move, gliding smoothly across the floor as if levitating. He moved so that the notes seemed to vibrate up his body, his sneakers squeaking as he pirouetted.
“I think he’s a genius,” Mr. Ma said after the show. A video of their duet to Camille Saint-Saëns’s “The Swan” went viral in 2011; they have since performed it around the world — “one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Mr. Ma said.

He has been featured in Vogue, performed in China, and recently did a special TedTalk Teen performance:

From the East Coast, similar elements from jookin are found in flex, shown in the video below:

Students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have also made major contributions to the black dance tradition, explored by Jacqui Malone in Steppin' on the Blues:

Book cover.  Steppin' on the Blues, by Jacqui Malone

It's impossible to think of the heritage of music and dance in the United States without the invaluable contributions of African Americans. Those art forms have been touched by the genius of African American culture and have helped this nation take its important and unique place in the pantheon of world art.

Steppin' on the Blues explores not only the meaning of dance in African American life but also the ways in which music, song, and dance are interrelated in African American culture. Dance as it has emanated from the black community is a pervasive, vital, and distinctive form of expression–its movements speak eloquently of African American values and aesthetics. Beyond that it has been, finally, one of the most important means of cultural survival.

Former dancer Jacqui Malone throws a fresh spotlight on the cultural history of black dance, the Africanisms that have influenced it, and the significant role that vocal harmony groups, black college and university marching bands, and black sorority and fraternity stepping teams have played in the evolution of dance in African American life. From the cakewalk to the development of jazz dance and jazz music, all Americans can take pride in the vitality, dynamism, drama, joy, and uncommon singularity with which African American dance has gifted the world.

Though baseball is still considered to be the all-American sport, football has eclipsed it in popularity. African-American dance rhythms, grafted onto marching band precision, have become a popular part of half-time performances across the U.S. Some historians trace their history back to colonial times, documented in A Brief History of African American Marching Bands.

As a kid, living on the campus of Southern University, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1957, I was a baby majorette, and couldn't wait until our school played schools like Florida A&M or Grambling. I had no interest in the football game. I couldn't wait to see the bands!

HBCU marching bands were featured at both Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's inaugurations.

Another feature of HBCU's is black fraternity and sorority Stepping:

Stepping has often been compared to the South African Gumboot Dance.

During my growing-up years, in the '50s and '60s, I listened to R&B and "soul" music on the radio, and though Dick Clark's American Bandstand was on the television, broadcast out of Philly, it was a pale reflection of the dances being generated in black urban centers across the nation. The showcased dancers on American Bandstand were white. The few black teens who were on the show danced off in a corner of the studio.

During that era there was an explosion of dances, like the Twist, the Bop, the Shing-a-Ling, the Watusi, the Monkey, the Mashed Potato, the Jerk … hundreds of dances created in response to popular R&B tunes. Every summer I headed to Philly to learn the latest and bring them back to friends in New York.  

By the 1970s, televised social dance was no longer the sole purview of Dick Clark, when Soul Train hit the airwaves:

Soul Train is an American musical variety television program, which aired in syndication from 1971 until 2006. In its 35-year history, the show primarily featured performances by R&B, soul, and hip hop artists, although funk, jazz, disco, and gospel artists have also appeared. The series was created by Don Cornelius, who also served as its first host and executive producer. A weekly feature was the line dance.

Soul Train Line: Give It To Me Baby Rick James:

The powerhouse of R&B was Motown, and Motown groups were known not only for their music, but the fancy footwork that was part of the show. The house choreographer for Motown was Cholly Atkins, who you can see here rehearsing the Temptations. The youthful Jackson 5 captured the imagination of listeners and viewers around the world, propelling Michael Jackson to international fame, and the moonwalk became part of dance history.

Jackson credited Jeffrey Daniel, a former Soul Train dancer, with teaching him to moonwalk. Other super soul stars were known for their dance moves, among them Jackie Wilson and, of course, James Brown.  

Also in the '70s, with the rise of disco dancing, the intersections between the Puerto Rican and African-American community in New York City created a new fusion,The Latin Hustle.

This was an extension of the development of salsa, Afro-Cuban music that migrated to New York, and was transformed by Puerto Ricans and danced by Latinos, blacks and whites, in parks, at block parties, and in nightclubs.

From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale:

From Mambo To Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale is an hour-long documentary that tells a story about the creative life of the South Bronx, beginning with the Puerto Rican migration and the adoption of Cuban rhythms to create the New York salsa sound; continuing with the fires that destroyed the neighborhood but not the creative spirit of its people; chronicling the rise of hip hop from the ashes; and ending with reflections on the power of the neighborhood's music to ensure the survival of several generations of its residents, and, in the process, take the world's pop culture by storm.

Segueing into hip-hop and breaking, one of the many documentaries about the genesis of b-boys is The Freshest Kids.

(Full documentary can be found here.)

Of course, not all black dancers seek entry into the world of black dance. Like young dancers the world over, many aspire to ballet. Yet, despite the fact that a few black dancers have been allowed into elite companies—most notably male dancers like Arthur Mitchell, who moved on from the New York Ballet to form the Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook, and more recently, Misty Copeland—the barriers of racism are still there.

BLACK BALLERINA, a feature length documentary-in-progress, is a story of passion, opportunity, heartbreak and triumph of the human spirit. Set in the overwhelmingly white world of classical dance, it tells the stories of several black women from different generations who fell in love with ballet. Six decades ago, while pursuing their dreams of careers in classical dance, Joan Myers Brown, Delores Browne and Raven Wilkinson confronted racism, exclusion and unequal opportunity. In 2014, three young black women also pursue careers as ballerinas. Do they find that the color of ballet has changed? If so, how? If not, why?

BLACK BALLERINA uses the ethereal world of ballet to engage viewers in a subject that reaches far outside the art world. Through broadcast and a comprehensive educational and community outreach initiative, BLACK BALLERINA compels viewers to think about larger issues of exclusion, equal opportunity and change.

Langston Hughes wrote:

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

And Alvin Ailey once said, "Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people."

The Struggle Continues. RLHSR.


I am loathe to consider the guilty verdict in the Jordan Davis case a victory. Victory implies someone won something, and no one won a thing. The guilty verdict today is justice served although it is also justice delayed since it took a do-over to get the verdict right. I understand we have a need to celebrate what we might consider a victory because, whether we want to admit it or not, the Racist Justice system is stacked against Blacks. Always has been and always will be. Yet we should not have to celebrate the justice system finally recognizing a racist murder whether they call it racist or not, and delivering the appropriate comeuppance. The Appropriate First Degree Murder verdict only gives some closure…not much… to Jordan Davis' Parents.

The verdict today for all intents and purposes is a political verdict. Political verdict because 1) the community et al demanded the second trial after the White Jury in the First Trial would not get the First Degree Murder verdict right; 2) It gave the State Attorney's office "a second bite of the apple" after "blowing it the first time"; 3) Dunn was already looking at 60 years and more years on his sentence did not make a difference in his ever getting out of jail; 4) It was another instance of an adult killing an unarmed child; 5) it was a social media identified and recognized obvious racist murder.

This was a senseless murder but not because of loud music. This was a senseless murder because of Core Racist Attitudes. A murder which allowed a racist with malice aforethought simply get his gun and kill a Black unarmed youngster. A murder which cost us a doctor or lawyer or a college president. A murder which cost us a future good father and a future good husband and a good son. Unfortunately there are other Trayvon Martin/Jordan Davis/Michael Brown Racist murders in the future, as there were Emmett Till/Johnnie Mae Chappell/Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins Racist murders in the past, all who lost their lives simply because they were Black. We just have to understand justice served for a racist murder is not a victory.

The Struggle Continues. RLHSR.